This week’s parasha (Torah portion) provides a great place to enter the discussion. God announces to Moses who (or what) God is. Ehiyeh asher ehiyeh – I am what I am, I am what I will be, I was what I will be – I am the totality of existence. Not a Being. Not an idol. Not a Thing. I am Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey… a combination of three verbs – Was, Is, Will Be. I AM!
What does that mean? My colleague, Rabbi Laura Geller, wrote a beautiful D’var Torah this week that explores this idea. Our congregation will discuss it at Friday night services at 7:30 pm this Shabbat. Read on, then comment and/or come to services.
It happened again this week–this time at the gym. Just as I was finishing my workout, someone called to me:
“You’re Rabbi Geller, right?”
“You know what, rabbi? I don’t believe in God.”
It is hard to know how to respond when that happens. Usually I mumble about giving me a call to discuss it. Other times, when I have more time, I ask the person to describe the “god” he or she doesn’t believe in.
Nine times out of ten it is the god that the person first met as a child, the one who looks like an old man with a beard who lives somewhere in the sky and knows if you’ve been bad or good. The person is usually surprised when I say: “You know, I don’t believe in that ‘god’ either.”
The more we talk, the more the person shares how for him, coming to synagogue only reinforces that image of a god. Even our prayer book, gender neutral as it is, seems to support the image of a powerful ruler, delivering us from oppressors and saving us from tyrants. While the words don’t actually say it, this god looks like a king or a powerful father.
I don’t believe in that god either.
This week’s Torah portion begins: “God spoke to Moses . . . . ‘I am the Eternal. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by My name YHVH.’ ” Read more.